How Shane Fu and Hoxxoh reimagined street art for the digital age
What happens when street art collides with the digital world? We go behind the scenes of a collaboration between Shane Fu and Douglas Hoekzema (aka Hoxxoh) to find out.
When you think of street art, large-scale murals painted by Banksy, Basquiat and Keith Haring might come to mind. But what if these murals could be brought to life? What if each painted particle could ripple and wave out from the wall, right in front of your eyes? In a new collaboration between 3D artist and motion designer Shane Fu and Bushwick Collective artist Douglas Hoekzema (who also goes by the name Hoxxoh or Hox), this has become a reality.
To celebrate the launch of the new Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i, an Intel® Evo™ design, eight artists from across the globe have been invited to reimagine street art and to create original 3D creations, including Shanef3d, Origiful, EraVFX, Marble Mannequin and others. Launched to introduce the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i, the project is showcasing how artists are using the city as their creative canvas, as seen in one of the collaborations between Shane and Hoxxoh. Street art is a medium traditionally associated with daubs of paint and airbrushes. So, when Shane was given the chance to collaborate with Hoxxoh to digitally transform one of his murals, let’s just say that everyone – including us at It’s Nice That – was eager to see the results.
You might think Shane and Hoxxoh are an unlikely match. Based in New York, Shane initially studied film production at university before switching things up and venturing into the realms of 3D art and design. The career shift has undeniably paid off, though, with Shane now boasting a portfolio packed with hyperreal artworks that defy the constraints of the physical world. Hoxxoh, who’s based in Miami, has worked in the industry for 20 years and uses non-traditional mark-making tools – like a dustpan and paint pendulum – to create hypnotic, colourful murals. Although working in two opposing fields, both artists’ practices share some surprising similarities, not least in the graphical precision of their artworks and trippy visuals.
While both possess a rebellious spirit and drive to push the boundaries of their mediums, the main divider between them is technology. But with this project, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i helped bring the artists closer together through the emerging but rapidly growing discipline of digital street art – a medium that sees 3D artists merge their assets into real world settings. “What excites me about digital art is that it has a lot of unexplored potential,” says Shane.
The physical artwork painted by Hoxxoh can be found in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighbourhood known for its street art murals and home of the art collective, Bushwick Collective. It’s typical of his style, boasting a striking composition, punchy colours and dense textures. It provided the perfect canvas for Shane to experiment with on the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i. Describing the mural as the “complete opposite” of his own work, Shane decided that the best route to go down was to implement parts of the mural in CGI and design some “fluid particle work” with the colours, using motion to interpret the artwork Hoxxoh created. “The more texture there is, the better,” he says in the video, “as it helps me track the camera and also implement the CGI.”
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Shane Fu's digital street art in process.
At the start of any project, Shane kicks off the process by taking note of his environment and snapping photographs on his phone for reference later on. “The biggest inspiration for my work usually stems from the locations themselves,” he says. “I try to implement my design to fit in with its surroundings as much as possible, to maximise not only the realism, but the context of its architecture, interior design or, in this case, a street mural.” For this campaign, Shane took into consideration both the artwork and the iconic Bushwick location at hand, before capturing the mural with a 360 spherical photo so that he can impose the geometry in his own 3D creation. The concept grew from the “flow” of Hoxxoh’s paint strokes and the idea around impermanence in the discipline of street art. “I want to flip the typical way of thinking that traditional [street] art has to be transient while digital art is permanent,” says Shane.
With the concept in place, Shane moved on to the more technical aspects of the project. He motion-tracked the footage shot in Brooklyn, before hand-tracing the outline of the mural and turning it into a 3D canvas. This canvas simulated over 100,000 particles with the exact colours matched from the frame, a process which couldn’t have been achieved so quickly without the help of the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i. “When using the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i, I found PureSight Pro to be very useful for colour matching the CGI element to Hoxxoh’s work,” says Shane. “It is always tricky to find the black values of a piece of video footage and the hues of an outdoor scene like his mural, but with this display I can easily fine tune all the particles to match the footage I shot. The laptop’s powerful Intel Evo i7 processor also saved me a considerable amount of time with real-time preview and final renderings.”
Colour matching proved to be a vital step in preserving the visual language of Hoxxoh’s mural, just as much as the composition. Both of which are translated within Shane’s digital recreation. “Since I am creating the digital canvas directly onto the mural, a level of respect needed to be established for this work,” Shane says. What did change, however, was the introduction of movement; Shane manipulated the acrylic brush strokes with motion design to bring the mural to life. The outcome is a finely tuned balance between sharp and fluid dances of colour that appear dramatically on the screen – like a colourful creature has come out to greet you.
It may be surprising to learn that, before this project, Shane had never sprayed a can of paint in his life. But after meeting Hoxxoh, he quickly learned the detailed analogue steps that go into the making of an artwork like his, and how these skills can be transferred into his own creations and, ultimately, onto the streets. “His insight on analogue art making has taught me a lot of ways that I have never thought of when designing art digitally,” says Shane, “which in turn provided me with new perspectives on what can be done differently with my current style of work.”
What’s more, after spending some time with Hoxxoh, Shane has discovered that analogue processes require “more rigorous critique and review” than their digital counterparts, “since it’s about creating your own style without the reliance of learning from the internet”. So, if this collaboration has taught Shane anything, it’s that the physical and digital worlds aren’t so far apart – and that there’s much that an artist in one can learn from the other side. And today, there are powerful tools, like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i, helping bring these two worlds even closer together.